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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cerebral vein thrombosis: clinical manifestation and diagnosis

Christian Tanislav1*, Ralf Siekmann2, Nicole Sieweke1, Jens Allendörfer3, Wolfgang Pabst4, Manfred Kaps1 and Erwin Stolz1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany

2 Department of Neuroradiology, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany

3 Department of Neurology, Neurologische Klinik Bad Salzhausen, Germany

4 Institute for Biomedicine and Epidemiology, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2011, 11:69  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-69

Published: 10 June 2011



Cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) is a disease with a wide spectrum of symptoms and severity. In this study we analysed the predictive value of clinical signs and symptoms and the contribution of D-dimer measurements for diagnosis.


We evaluated consecutive patients admitted with suspected CVT receiving non-invasive imaging. Symptoms and symptom combination as well as D-dimer levels were evaluated regarding their diagnostic value.


239 patients were included in this study, 170 (71%) were females. In 39 patients (16%) a CVT was found. For identifying a CVT patients underwent either a venous CT-angiography or MR-angiography or both. No combination of symptoms either alone or together with the D-dimer measurements had a sensitivity and positive predictive value as well as negative predictive value and specificity high enough to serve as red flag. D-dimer testing produced rates of 9% false positive and of 24% false negative results. For D-dimer values a Receiver Operating Characteristic curve (ROC) and the area under the curve (AUC = 0.921; CI: 0.864 - 0.977) were calculated. An increase of sensitivity above 0.9 results in a relevant decrease in specificity; a sensitivity of 0.9 matches a specificity value of 0.9. This corresponds to a D-dimer cut-off level of 0.16 μg/ml.


Imaging as performed by venous CT-angiography or MR-angiography has a 1 to 2 in 10 chance to detect CVT when typical symptoms are present. D-dimer measurements are of limited clinical value because of false positive and negative results.